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Rising toll: 300 homes destroyed by Carlton Complex Fire

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Carlton Complex Fire briefing

Donations for Carlton Complex Fire: The Okanogan County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) said no more clothing is needed by distribution centers. But residents are in dire need of flashlights, headlamps, batteries, work gloves, work boots, portable ...


Fire updates: Highway 2 to reopen near Leavenworth

Chiwaukum Creek Fire: Highway 2 between Leavenworth and Coles Corner is expected to reopen at 8 p.m. Sunday (July 27). Traffic will be escorted by pilot car, so drivers should expect delays. The fire stands at just under 11,000 acres with 25 percent containment as crews strengthen fire lines on the north and east perimeters. Evacuation notices along Coulter Creek, between Nason Creek and Coles Corner, have been lowered from Level 3 to Level 1. Four structures — three cabins and one outbuilding — in the area have been destroyed by the blaze, fire officials reported Saturday.

Mills Canyon Fire: Now at 95 percent containment, this blaze continues to be watched carefully by fire crews, who are wary of the remaining 5 percent burning in rugged terrain. The fire has scorched 22,571 acres near Entiat.

Lone Mountain 1 Fire: Air operations increased Friday with four helicopters assisting ground crews on the 1,700-acre fire northeast of Stehekin. Also, more radio equipment was installed to improve communications between firefighters, Stehekin and the heli-base in Winthrop. Stehekin village, Rainbow Falls and the lakeshore trail remain open to the public. For safety, officials have closed the Boulder Creek Trail in the Stephen Mather Wilderness and lands east of the fire area in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.


Update: 10:45 a.m. Sunday, July 27

Firefighters working Saturday on containment lines in the Woody Mountain, Cook Mountain and Sullivan Creek drainages were supported by aerial resources that included 18 helicopters and three fixed-wing aircraft. One spot fire occurred over the line in the Sullivan Creek drainage, but was fully contained at less than one-third of an acre.

Today, higher temperatures and lower humidity will increase fire activity as fuels dry out from last week’s rain. Residents might see smoke, especially later in the day. Evacuation levels for a few residential areas along Highway 20 remain at Level 2 (be ready to go) until risk levels change.

The fire remains at 250,514 acres with 59 percent containment. Firefighters battling the blaze — 3,014 in all — are assigned to 86 crews, 198 engines, 24 dozers, 46 water tenders and 19 helicopters.

Saturday, July 26

OKANOGAN — Firefighters battling the largest wildfire in state history continued to make progress Saturday with 59 percent containment of the Carlton Complex Fire amid a rising toll — now 300 — of fire-ravaged homes.

On Friday and Saturday, crews strengthened fire lines along much of the perimeter of 250,514-acre blaze which charred hillsides and burned structures in the Methow Valley, Pateros, Brewster and southcentral Okanogan County.

A revised tally on Friday of 300 destroyed homes was double the official estimate from last weekend. The number could go higher as fire activity cools and officials gain access to isolated drainages.

You have to remember that we’ve got 800 miles of roadway for the whole fire footprint,” said Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers.

National Guard troops on Friday drove back roads in hope of reaching residents who may need food and water. The sheriff said some people have felt they could not leave their property because of potential looters.

Meanwhile, power was restored Friday to wide areas of the Methow Valley — Mazama, Winthrop, Twisp and portions of Carlton — as Okanogan Electric Co-op and Okanogan County PUD crews worked along Highway 20 to re-string miles of transmission lines destroyed by raging fire just a week earlier.

About 98 percent of the area served by the Co-op now has power, said David Gottula, the utility’s general manager. About 75 to 100 residential customers remained without power Saturday, but crews were working this weekend to reconnect those homes.

Around 6 p.m. Friday, the Okanogan County PUD energized the main trunk line into Pateros, which turned on the lights to downtown businesses and most neighborhoods within the city limits. Around 800 customers — mostly in the areas of Alta Lake and a few miles up the Methow River from Pateros — still awaited power.

We’re working now to connect those customers, but so far we have no estimate on when power will be restored,” said PUD spokesman Dan Boettger.

Power officials originally estimated that transmission lines destroyed in the Carlton Complex Fire wouldn’t be repaired for weeks. “But we have had amazing support and cooperation from outside utilities,” said Boettger. “Crews, trucks, materials and other resources kept arriving to help us” reconnect customers.

On Saturday, fire officials reported that crews near Libby, Gold and McFarland creeks had gotten close to completing fire lines, while crews on the northeastern portion of the fire worked to push the blaze into the area of the Tripod Complex Fire, which burned 175,000 acres in 2006.

On the Carlton Fire’s northwestern flank near Pearrygin Lake, crews were busy preparing for a backburn which could take place Sunday (July 27). Another backburn could take place soon in the South Gold Creek area, and residents are advised to be alert for smoke.

Fire conditions could also worsen this week as temperatures soar towards triple digits, warned fire officials. That heat could be followed by a period of heavy rains and the threat of flooding in burned draws and on charred hillsides.

World reporter Dee Riggs contributed to this article.

Reach Mike Irwin at 509-665-1179 or . Read his blog Everyday Business. follow him on Twitter at @MikeIrwinWW.